Top 10 so far:
#3. Derrick Favors (His post)
#4. Alec Burks (His post)
#5. Rodney Hood (His post)
#6. Trey Burke (His post)
#7. Trevor Booker (His post)
#8. Elijah Millsap (His post)
#9. Joe Ingles (His post)
#10. Trey Lyles (His post)
Last year's projected #2: Gordon Hayward (His post)
That's right folks, lightning does strike the same place twice sometimes.
Hayward is the only Jazzman who came in at the same spot in this year's and last year's rankings.
Gordon carried our offensive load night in and night out this season and due to a combination of his and our team's continued improvement achieved career highs in PER, Usage%, Win Shares, Win Shares per 48 minutes, Box Plus MInus (with his 1st positive defensive box plus minus ever), and Value over replacement player!
For those who are not into all the outside of the box score stats, that's basically all a bunch of analytic mumbo jumbo that Hayward took another leap this season. He is right on the cusp of that NBA All Star range. Depending on who you ask, Hayward is starting to make people's list of top 25 NBA players right now.
Anyways, let's get on with his formal introduction:
#2. Gordon Hayward, 6th year, 25 years old, 6'8", 207 pounds, (Last year's rank: 2)
Source: Getty Images
Time flies, Gordon Hayward is the veteran of this team. Let's look back at a moment from his rookie year
The more I look back at this moment, the more I can appreciate the symbolism of this clip.
This was the season where the passing of the baton took place in the great historical Utah Jazz franchise relay-- It was not a clean handoff by any means.
Jerry Sloan's system had brought us great success over the decades, but it had become apparent for at least a couple years, if not more, that it had long since become antiquated and no longer a formula for a contender.
In this clip, are the last fractured remnants of the final iteration of Jerry Sloan coached basketball. Deron Williams, appears dismayed as his once-effective partner-in-crime Carlos Boozer recently left for greener/redder pastures to play with a new up-and-coming point guard in Derrick Rose (or maybe just to get as big of a paycheck as he could).
Deron vents his anger as his team, down by double-digits, is playing this pasty new hot-shot who is still learning the intricacies of Sloan's flex system as this was the 2nd game of his NBA career.
Now watch that video again. Observe the frustration Deron displays early on, he was making mountains out of molehills. He knew his team's peak was behind him. His team's success that season was only going to go as far as he could carry them. He realized this and would lead us to many wins (we were 27-13 halfway through this season!) but eventually he lost steam clashed heads with too many people and the Jazz had to cut their losses and welcome in a new era.
Most of you are aware this is the year Sloan retired. Watch the 27 second mark as the lone player-connection to the Jazz's past of Stockton-and-Malone in Kirilenko exits stage left. See Hayward showing his own frustration but an even more intense expression of how much he was willing to learn from his mistakes and improve. View the immediately frames following at the 31 second mark as Big Al, Raja Bell, and Corbin console him as those 3 would realize Gordon was going to play an integral role in making all of them look better than they would have in absence of him.
Then, in the final shot, a Kirilenko patting Hayward's shorts.
The figureheads of the players of Jazz basketball of the last 30 years:
Gordon Hayward is only player left on this team from when we had Deron Williams
He is the one player keeping us from 100% roster turnover since then...it has not even been 5 years since that clip...
The Jazz culture sure has changed since the decades of dominance that spanned from the mid-80s to early-00s.
Now, a new era.
One who's longest current incumbent is Gordon Hayward. He is joined by his teammates this year as they all try to win playoff games for the first time with this team!
What to Expect This Season:
Take a look at how Hayward performed compared to my projections for him last year, I eerily close on some while Hayward exceeded my expectations by a bit in the other ones:
Hayward already is living up to his new contract that many saw as a gross overpay a short year ago.
So why is Gordon only ranked #2? He appears to have exceeded my expectations for the most part. And indeed, he leapfrogged last year's #1 in Derrick Favors in this year's Jazzmen Previews. But there is one I see even more crucial to the Jazz's success, one whose specialized talents will be THE reason many attribute to our team either making or missing the playoffs this year. He will be covered in the final entry (and the vast majority of you already know who it is).
I expect Hayward to either level off this season in production or take a minor step (hopefully in the positive direction) for the most part as Burks' return and Hood's likely improvement help to alleviate some of Hayward's heavy offensive load from the wing this season.
This is what I would project him to produce this season:
Chances of him being with the team in the 2016-2017 season:
Hayward is the longest standing Jazz player of the
Core 4 Fab 5 Sensual 6 Quin Snyder era of Jazz basketball.
He is the captain and one of the leaders of the charge that the Jazz are poised to make this season.
His name (or remnants of it rather, as a vocal minority still mistakenly call him Haywood) is the one that people know from our team for now.
The cogs of our offensive system simply are not greased without him.
Here's to Gordon and the Jazz finding some success this year and next, as Hayward will likely hit the market less than 20ish months from now. Let's hope Quin gets Hayward and the rest of our squad to buy in the special story our team is going to be making for years to come!
Let's get back to winning some playoff games!